Keller

Keller Factory Director explains key to the Group’s success

  • 15 May 2024

This article sees Jeffrey Carol, Keller’s Factory Director, answer questions about how the company’s operation functions and his unusual path to the top of his game…

Keller Kitchens offers the widest range of colours (2,050 NCS) and finishes in the European kitchen furniture market today, along with a huge variety of cabinetry options and accessories; all produced by the most sustainable means possible. The parent company, DKG, was the first carbon neutral kitchen manufacturer in 2017 and has reached Level 5 on the CO2 Performance Ladder – the highest level possible.

Based in Bergen op Zoom, Holland, DKG boasts one of the largest kitchen factories in Europe; the surface area for the factory is ​​65,000 square metres while the entire premises totals 100,000 square metres. 450 people are employed and around 2,500 kitchens are manufactured each week.

Recently, several major investments have been made in the production facility in order that the Group optimises today’s technology, raises productivity, and remains at the forefront of the industry in terms of sustainability initiatives.

Keller

The headquarters in Bergen Op Zoom

How long have you worked for Keller and how has your career progressed here?

My career path at Keller started in April 2007 and has comprised a diverse mix of roles which has been unusual, and useful! I started as a team leader responsible for the distribution centre and the people within it. After three years, I became Planning & Logistics Manager which tested all my skills! The machines must be running correctly, the people in the right place at the right time, the stock accessible and controlled; the list goes on.

It is the department and team that ensures the factory is running at optimal levels and it was in this role that I first visited the UK to meet and chat with our dealers. I then dipped my toe in the Keller Customer Service division before moving on to be Sales Manager for Belgium. In 2020, I became Operations Manager and 2022 saw me reach the Factory Director position.

The span of roles is wide and it means that, having started as a ‘boot on the floor’ in so many roles, I can now manage with a great deal of background knowledge and am, in essence, customer-centric.

Keller

The Keller Kitchens factory

How do you communicate with your teams? 

This is one of the most interesting parts of my job. We communicate in various ways as it is hard to reach everyone in just one way! Practically, my door is always open and we TALK! Because I have worked in the factory before, I know the teams and vice versa. I am not the new boy!

Every day, we have a daily ‘stand-up’ where all the team coaches and leaders speak and outline the day’s plans. The ten large TV screens in the factory are used to keep people updated with birthdays, projects, opening hours, charity news, company news, success in sales – everything goes up there!

Part of my communications is focused on energy and a company catchphrase isIf what you are doing doesn’t give or deliver energy, then stop doing it! We want to perform with pleasure not pain’.

We have a team of people whose job it is to identify the areas where energy is lacking. This very special team creates solutions so that everyone stays on track.  

We also use comics to allow for feedback and open conversations. It’s much easier to make a point using humour. The music playlists and radio stations played in the factory was a recent ‘discussion’ point where everyone wanted a voice. We now change the music every day – so everyone gets their fix of rock and roll, jazz and classical, for example!

Where in the world do your kitchens go?

In order to assure quality, accuracy of build and to ensure kitchens are put together as sustainably as possible we only supply rigid kitchens to our partners. The main focus is on the countries around us – Belgium, UK and, of course, The Netherlands. We also sell kitchens in other countries such as Dubai and Morocco.

Keller

The Keller Kitchens factory

What does your role entail? What do you do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis?

Each day is, as we all say, never the same as another! Overall, I am always building on the company’s long-term business strategy and we are already thinking about 2030. Buying a new piece of plant is expensive and lead times are long.

But back to the day job! The first thing I do every day is to look at a report on what items we did not fulfil with a description as to why; this keeps me focused and in control.  I also need to look at overtime as this may highlight where we need extra help from outside contractors at particularly busy times. I also work a lot with the sales team to convert their wishes – or their customers’ wishes – into production possibilities. We, as a team, focus on operational excellence, growth, delivery, and performance, and studying reports is what I do on a daily basis!  

I do not get involved in the minutiae of the factory running; we have teams and I empower them as it makes their jobs much more fun!

The DKG group is known for continual investment; what is the next development?

We are in the middle of the installation phase of two considerable investment projects. One is a new multi-edging machine which will increase production from 7,500 edged units a day to 11,500.

By coincidence, we are also installing a new assembly line at the same time. This line is devoted to both tall and special dimension cabinets.  The old line produced 400 items per day while the new one does 800.

Can you tell me about the Cobots investment?

We now have our first Cobot! It is so effective at doing those jobs no one else wants to do! For example, it loads boxes into a car! The Cobot dovetails into our CSR staff policy.

Keller

The Cobot at the Keller Kitchens factory

Sustainability is rightly very important to Keller and the company is seen as a pioneer here.  What is your involvement in the initiatives?

Yes, we have a sustainability team but, here at DKG, sustainability runs through every vein in every person. We are famous for it. Every department in the factory has a goal to instigate two improvements to sustainability – for their space. And we are, not surprisingly for those who study generational behaviours, seeing that younger people are applying for jobs with Keller due to our prowess and commitment to the multitude of sustainability measures. More is detailed here.

What is the best thing about working for Keller?

I have the most amazing man cave where my toys are worth many million euros or thereabouts! I love that it is a beautiful factory where everyone can see that our plans work. They come to life due to the eager people who love working here; and they do not leave!  When someone has worked for Keller for 20/30/40, or even 50, years, we celebrate with their family, colleagues, and friends in my office where presents may feature! In January, we had six celebrations!

What do you enjoy outside of Keller?

We have a young son and daughter who keep us busy; as does my running. We are a Manchester City-supporting family and I occasionally go to games with Tim Spann, Keller’s National Sales Manager in the UK. The Premier League is the best in the world! I also follow Formula One and am going to the Italian Grand Prix this year.

For further information, visit www.kellerkitchens.com.

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